REVIEWS -- MARCH 24, 2000

                    Aaliyah – Try Again
Aaliyah - Try Again
     (**½)  “It’s been a long time / We shouldnt’a left ya without a dope beat to step to,” Timbaland intones at the beginning of “Try Again.” Indeed, it’s been a long time – since we last heard from Timbaland, his sound has been copped and usurped, and the occasional Missy Elliott single is all we have to remember him by. Well, he and Aaliyah have teamed up for another soundtrack single (prompted by the massive success of 1998’s “Are You That Somebody”), this one from the Aaliyah vehicle (!) Romeo Must Die. The song is an interesting direction for the R+B singer, who began her career as R. Kelly’s protégé. “Try Again” is built around hazy, ultra-distorted techno-blip beats and brings us one step closer to the once-threatened Trent Reznor/Aaliyah collaboration. (Remember that?) The video exists in the blue-silver, Mr. Freeze-directed Hype-hop universe. There are odd outfits, girls wearing too much makeup – they bury Aaliyah under face-paint here like they did in the movie – and a couple Matrix-type moments with dance steps no one could possibly do. The only constant, and the only thing that redeems the style changes? Aaliyah’s goddamned beautiful stomach. Lord help me, I love that stomach. –Andrew Hicks
Aaliyah - Try Again

Black Rob – Whoa
     (**)  MTV’s Jam of the Week from Keanu Reeves, who has abandoned Dogstar for gangsta rap. Actually, it’s just a black guy named Rob on Puffy’s label – yeah, it’s about as heavyweight as you’d expect. Black Rob lets us know in the intro that “anything ill” he comes across provokes his superlative, “Whoa!” (“Get my welfare check, I’m like ‘Whoa!’ / Find an extra 40 in the fridge, I’m like ‘Whoa!’”) The sad part is, it’s so asinine a concept, it almost works. Especially when Puff comes to pick up Black Rob in his flatbed trailer and swerves the thing all over the neighborhood. (BR: Whoa!  PUFF: Whoa!) Among the words Black Rob rhymes with “Whoa”? “G.I. Joe,” of course. –WA (White Andrew)

Bob Dylan – Things Have Changed
     (**½)  There are good ways and bad ways to release your standard soundtrack video as an aging rock star – you can go puss and score the new Julia Roberts/Richard Gere romantic comedy like Clapton (bad), or you can attach yourself to far superior material like Curtis Hanson’s Wonder Boys and write a jangly, vibrant and (most importantly) badass comeback single like Dylan has. This is one of my favorite songs of the new year (or, if you want to seem really superlative, new millennium), and I don’t even like Dylan that much. Good lyricist and songwriter, godawful vocalist. But he’s in full effect here. The video for “Things Have Changed” is slightly more than mediocre, though, taking the Smash Mouth/Mystery Men approach to existing material from the movie. It’s laziness, recycling and pure promotion. So we get Dylan sitting in a car with Robert Downey, Jr. Dylan looking morose with Tobey Maguire. And Dylan hoping very earnestly that he’ll be able to seduce Katie Holmes, who wasn’t even born when his last album came out. He doesn’t, thankfully, but he’s in good company, so he’s entitled to try. Besides, this is probably as good or better than anything Bob Dylan’s brain-mush head could have come up with for a concept video. –AH

Faith Hill – Breathe
     (**)  Okay, she’s kind of crossed over already, but for the love of God, country music industry, don’t give us another Shania Twain. Or, worse, another LeAnn Rimes. All we need is another music-diversity poster child for VH1 – well, from the outset it’s obvious “Breathe” doesn’t represent diversity. It’s country music, Diane Warren style, a little bit twangy but very, very pop. If true country is a plate of jalopenos, “Breathe” is a packet of Taco Bell mild sauce. The video is just as bland, with Faith wrapped in a sheet in the middle of the empty desert – the video’s entire color scheme is “goldenrod.” She’s pretty, yeah, but not in the flawless, air-brushed and perfectly symmetrical way we on the non-country side of things demand of our stars. Sorry, Faith, I’m sure CMT will give you all the airplay you want. –AH

Enrique Iglesias – Be With You
     (*)  Why are we still having to deal with this? Ricky’s gone into hiding; why can’t Enrique? God, I remember the days when the mere fact that you were Julio Iglesias’ son got you no headway in the music world – or being an alumnus of Menudo, for that matter. Enrique and his boys walk into a convenience store at the beginning of the “Be With You” video, shoplifting just enough to get them through the afternoon. Then they head through the Ricky Martin, What Dreams May Come pastel desert to arrive at a brightly lit Caribbean music party. There, Enrique finally gets to “be with” his girl and share a delicious open-mouthed fade-to-black kiss. Yuck. –AH

Jagged Edge – He Can’t Love You
     (*½)  Jagged Edge is this year’s Az Yet. This year’s Blackstreet. This year’s R+B boy group you’ll hear from once or twice, brought to you by Jermaine Dupri, repository of beats with a quicker expiration date than that carton of milk you bought last night. (“The Mack Dad’ll make ya… jump jump!”) The “He Can’t Love You” video plays out like a bad costume-design session between the Ruff Ryders and Hype Williams. There’s matching leather and lycra, lots of primary colors and hats. Oh, the hats. “He Can’t Love You” is ineffectual slow-jam material that borrows liberally (credited or not) from Bonnie Raitt/George Michael/Prince’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” True dat. –AH

Lenny Kravitz – I Belong To You
     (**½)  James claims to have reviewed this video a year ago. I missed it entirely, but I have reason to believe him because it was featured in the Kravitz “Behind the Music,” and you know those things are never completely up to date. Anyway, MTV is passing it off as “Spankin’ New,” so I guess I’ll give it a go. “I Belong to You,” old or new, isn’t much – it’s a vanity project masquerading as a tribute to his mother. The sound is a lot like the trip-ballads on Are You Gonna Go My Way, the only Lenny Kravitz album I’ve heard in its entirety, crossed with just an adult-contemporary touch of reggae. Accordingly, Kravitz seems to be walking through the streets of Trenchtown in a wife-beater, pausing occasionally to submerge himself in the beautiful blue ocean so his nipples will get hard. Okay, you have a nice body. We get it. Save that shit for Heather Graham, will ya? –AH

Limp Bizkit – Break Stuff
     (**)  Why: a) won’t they go away?  b) won’t Fred Durst at least change out of his red Starter baseball cap? (Hey, there are two other primary colors, you know.) “Break Stuff” is a video I’ve only encountered on The Box. I think MTV is worried it might incite viewers to violent behavior, like throwing beer bottles in the street. Nigga, please. This is the kind of corporate phoniness that only the mirthless members of the American Family Association could find threatening. (Oh, and Tipper. Definitely Tipper.) There are still a few lines MTV would have to excise, though, like, “I’ll take a chainsaw / Skin your ass raw / And if the day keeps going this way / I just might break your fucking face tonight.” So it’s automatically a little bit cooler than “Nookie” or “Faith.” But this video, with its parade of freaks, band members and celebrities expressing pent-up rage, is only slightly cooler than Aerosmith’s similar freak-parade “Pink” (although Aerosmith’s was much more elderly-smug). How much weed you think it took to get Eminem and Snoop in on this one? –AH

Methods of Mayhem – New Skin
     (*½)  We all know “Get Naked” was a fluke for Tommy Lee, an all-star sex-romp curiosity that somehow gained the album gold status. Okay, you’re a lucky man – you can beat your wife, serve a prison term and still come out on top. And the entire porn-buying world can verify that you’ve got a big dick. Why do you need to assault us with further evidence that your new incarnation is just your old incarnation crossed with Creed-level post-grunge and Limp Bizkit wig-hop? “New Skin,” appropriately enough, is directed by ex-porn auteur Gregory Dark, and it’s filmed in the predictable Dark color scheme, half Lenny Kravitz (heroin models included, to be sure) and half Everlast. The song changes styles three times but never catches on to anything that works. Tommy, you need to follow your wife’s lead and have those bad-rap implants removed from your brain before they swell and burst. I’d have paid serious money to drive the semi that plows the entire video set at the end. –AH

VH1 Before They Were Stars: “Star Search” edition
     (***)  It’s almost pathetically heart-wrenching to watch the play-by-play from the guy who beat out Britney Spears on “Star Search.” (“I don’t know what I was thinking with that shirt.”) And it’s inexplicable why this kid is still looking for a record contract while Justin Timberlake – who showed up in a 10-gallon hat singing “Chatanooga Choo-Choo” or some shit – is on the cover of Rolling Stone with *N Sync. (Best moment: Timberlake, upon losing, refuses to shake Ed’s hand. “Don’t dis me, Ed McMahon,” he announces.) Looking at it now, “Star Search” must have been an impossible show to get through, all perky, ambitious no-names performing treacly cover songs. This entire VH1 special, though, is worth your time for the above reasons and for getting to see the teenybopper incarnation of Alanis lose to a Jason Priestley-looking guitar folk singer. VH1 has a serious instinct for cutting through the crap to bring us the crap we actually want to see. A thumbs-up for that. –AH

Classic Videos
From the Radiohead compilation tape
"7 Television Commercials"

Radiohead – Just (1995)
     (***)  The Radiohead compilation tape is on loan from a friend who is on a crusade to hook me on the bizarre British band. I admit it’s good, I admit I like it, but he swears he won’t rest until I proclaim them “the greatest.” I don’t think that’s going to happen in the near future, but I’ll concede there’s not a weak link on the 7 Television Commercials compilation. If you enjoy the artform of music video married with amazing instrumentation, songwriting and production, you should track it down. (That said, I still don’t consider it “the greatest.” Sorry, man.) “Just,” from 1995’s The Bends, is the Radiohead equivalent of “Everybody Hurts,” although it helps that there’s no Michael Stipe and it’s based around a much better song. A business man comes to a grim, depressing realization and lies down in the street. Passersby gather, demanding he get out of the road and asking what the problem is. (“I’m fine. Please, will you just let me lie here,” the man speaks via subtitles. “Don’t touch me!”) A cop intervenes, everyone’s indignant, and the man finally reveals his secret. (No subtitle, naturally.) Surprise, surprise – for the next pan shot, the other professionals and the motorcycle cop are lying inert on the ground with him. A rather simplistic message, but it’s told in a haunting, non-obnoxious (ahem, “Everybody Hurts”) way. –AH

Radiohead – Karma Police (1997)
     (***½)  This was the single that made me realize, yeah, I liked Radiohead after all. “Creep” got on my damn nerves, and “Hi and Dry” sounded to me like something that could play on adult-contemporary radio, dedicated from Hector to Elizabeth. But “Karma Police,” even placed awkwardly between Aqua and Everclear on the Now compilation, won me over, and the video is just as effective. Simplistic in the extreme, much of “Karma Police” occurs over one unbroken shot. An enormous old-lady car plows down the street, tracking a desperate man who, for whatever reason, just won’t get out of the way. (And, yeah, lazy-eyed Thom Yorke is brooding in the back seat: “This is what you get when you mess with us.”) The camera pans slowly between Yorke and the road until the video’s turning point when the victim faces the car down and realizes, hey, there’s a trail of gas going back to the car and he has a book of matches. I’d be cheating if I gave away the ending. –AH

Radiohead – Paranoid Android (1997)
     (****)  This is a rough one to describe, but it’s definitely my favorite on the tape. “Paranoid Android” belongs to the “fucked-up cartoon” sub-genre of videos that includes Pearl Jam’s “Do the Evolution.” Two ordinary guys, an old man with an alien being sprouting from his belly, a depressed U.N. counsel, topless mermaids and multiple amputations are among the highlights. Definitely try to catch the uncensored version if you can; otherwise, a few of the things I just mentioned will definitely not be among the highlights. I’m sure “Paranoid Android” speaks intelligent volumes about our society, but it’s really just cool to watch and listen to, when it comes down to it. Trippy all the damn way through. This is what music video is about. –AH


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